The old town of Matara (or Mature as it used to be spelled) is located on a land tongue between the ocean and a green lagoon, and is protected on the landside by Matara Fort, a 13 meter thick, 5 meter high rampart. On all other sides it is unprotected apart from the natural barrier of the water. The three parallel lanes with one-storied colonial style houses are quiet, because today all the action takes place in the new town. The thickness of the rampart is impressive when you stand on top of it, but otherwise it isn’t much to see. The gateway is disfigured by traffic signs, posters, banners, and wiring, and on top of the rampart a modern clock tower has been built. The bastion on the seaside was demolished to make way for the coastal road that leads into the town.
Behind the walls is an empty field which in the Dutch time was planted with trees. Now children play cricket here. To the left, on the seaside, is a Guesthouse, and the buildings in the right hand corner, next to the river, are occupied by the police. On the other side of the field is a nice little church. Over the doorway is the date 1769, when the serious damage done to it during the ‘Matara rebellion’ was repaired. It shows a resemblance to the church at Kalpitiya, which has pillared verandas along the sides too, containing the doorways. The front entrance on the short side of the Kalpitiya church is probably an element of the renovation in the British time.
Behind the town there used to be four elephant stables which could house up to 80 elephants and beyond that a tank where the elephants were washed. Matara was a centre for the elephant trade then. No traces of this are left. At the end of the land tongue today is a small fishing village with tall palm trees.
The lagoon is really the outlet of the Nilwala River. It used to be crossed by a simple floating bridge with a drawbridge in the middle, but there’s a steel bridge now that leads to the new town of Matara. Just across the bridge is the Star Fort built by Van Eck after the revolt. It’s a small star-shaped stronghold with a well inside it and immensely thick walls. It was built because the Matara Fort was indefensible, which had already been noted by Governor Rump in 1717. The rampart is only on one side of the town and you can simply walk around it along the beach. During the revolt of 1762 it was conquered by a Kandyan army that bombarded the town with cannonballs that went over the wall. After spiking their own cannon and destroying their ammunition and provisions, the garrison could be evacuated by two ships that were waiting at sea. Only a year later it was retaken by the Dutch, who found eight cannon on the walls, including an English one.
The Star Fort was built in 1763. The walls were originally protected by banks of earth, 8 meters wide, and between these banks and the walls was a moat, which was spanned by a drawbridge to give access to the gate. The earth has since filled up the moat. Within the walls is a ring of low buildings that could hold ammunition, provisions and a small garrison. In the centre of the ring of buildings is a well for drinking water. The fort has a decorated gate with a monogram of the VOC and the words ‘Redoute van Eck’. Below it is van Eck’s coat of arms, flanked by two lions. After it had fallen into disrepair the fort has recently been completely renovated and now houses a museum.
Map of Matara Fort
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Traveling Directions to Matara Fort
Route from Colombo
Route from Galle
|Though : kalutara – galle – Matara|
distance :165 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
|distance : 45 km|
Travel time : 50 mins
Driving directions : see on google map